Friday, 26 June 2009

What's In A Name

My problems began when I got my first 18+ card. Driving and owning a vehicle was getting too expensive; besides the only way to get places was to walk, hover board or blade it. So, having the card to tell people I wasn’t a teenie-bopper was a good idea. My brother, Gabe, said it was also cheaper for me too. But I had to wait for it to arrive in the mail. Bummer. I didn’t mind that it took a little while to get to me; what scared me was that I might be a victim of name fraud. Yes, it’s a new thing where your details are right but your name is changed. You don’t ask for this, it just happens.
So, there I was at the Post Office in the afternoon. The sun was glaring off the pavement when I ripped open the envelope I had to sign for. I stood there in shock with the ID card in my hands. They had everything right on it; my picture, my age, height, hair colour… but my name. Oh my god! My name… I couldn’t pronounce it! Not that I can’t read or the print was crap. No… my name – the real one – is Lydia Johnson. The one I saw on my 18+ card was something so alien, I almost passed out from holding my breath those few moments. I quickly pocketed the card and realised I needed help; and I knew who to talk to. You guessed it: my brother Gabe.

You see, he worked for an organisation that was digging through the red tape to abolish name fraud. He used to be a drafter; but when this thing affected his wife and got her killed, he concentrated his efforts on opening his own business to get this up and going with the government. But a lot of people were going to die before the law was passed on his business existing. So, it was an underground one for now; and it worked too.
A lot people had gotten their lives back, but then a lot them had died because once your name had been replaced with either a terrorist’s or criminal’s name, a Bounty Hunter was enlisted to end your life; even though you were a law-abiding Australian citizen. The 18+ cards worked through a different system from the Transport Department and so they were less secure. Nobody was sure why it worked like this and it seemed that the government had its hands tied. But I didn’t like the look of that weirdly-spelt name with my details next to it. I arrived at my brother’s workplace and went into the building feeling sick at the thought that I may be a victim of this stupid thing now.
He looked up from his terminal quickly as I entered the office and smiled, but realised that I wasn’t having a good day when I handed my card over. He inspected it closely and ran it through some scans before groaning: “Yep it’s happened to you now, Lyddie.” Gabe frowned at the card and typed in the name with difficulty and handed it back. “I can’t believe you’ve become a target now.”
I had been looking morosely at the card when I heard the last comment, “What? A target?”
He looked at me from his computer monitor, “Hey, relax, I’m looking up where it all went wrong and finding out who did this to you. First though, you must start some serious training. Once you’ve been ID’d like this, you’re on the Bounty Hunter’s hit list.”
The thought of being on a hit list felt like a rotten nightmare come to life. I found my way to the chair again and sank into it, “How?”
“Have you got a couple of hours?” he smiled, “We have to jack you into these computers and reprogram your defence system.”
“Make me ninja?”
He took my card back, “I’d rather you be safe than dead. I trust these guys. Please, let them. You’ve had it done before and it’s… simple.”
One of Gabe’s closest friends, Jim, walked to me from two desks away and smiled: “Come on, we’ll begin now.” He sat me down and took up a new packet with a ‘jack-in’ cord wrapped up, “We are all professional about this.” His blonde hair fell into his green eyes as he regarded me, “Gabe wouldn’t have me do this if he didn’t trust me. Now, hold still while I find that ‘plug’ we put in last time.”
“What plug?”
A grin played on his face and I smiled: “Oh… I see. You shit.”
“Gotta get ya to laugh.” He shook his head, “You’re far too serious, Lydia.”
“I’m a Bounty Hunter’s next target. It’s kind of hard to joke about it.”
Jim squeezed my arm gently, “I know. Trust me. I’m the best in the business.”

A couple of weeks passed and I had my mind slowly reprogrammed into a better defence system. Don’t get me wrong, I was the same person, just my defences were stronger and more sensitive to people following me. I knew better moves than mace spray then running; boy did I know some moves! I worked out for hours on end in the basement of Gabe’s work and built up my stamina so when the time came to running, I could do it without problems. I broke toes, sprained ankles and pulled a lot of muscles and I had to work through all that pain. It’s good I had that practice. The only thing I had on my mind was to keep myself alive long enough to survive the Bounty Hunter. Once they don’t accomplish their goal, they consider you too hard to kill and leave you alone. Nobody else comes after you; you’re beyond them. And if you’re unlucky enough, you’ll be offered their job before long; something I really didn’t want.

One evening, I was leaving Gabe’s work. It was dusk. He was busy with even more than his fare share of 18+ name frauders; mine included. We bade each other farewell and I left the building, keeping to the shadows as I had become accustomed to. Soon, though I found that there was somebody following me. It was more of a feeling than actually seeing anyone. So, I began to jog a little and my shadow kept up.
Rounding a corner, I bolted down the next street, dodging past people and then turned down the next alley. It was dark and there was not much lighting; just how I liked it. I got halfway down there before the person who was tailing me was at the mouth of it. Looking around, I found this alley was fenced off and I heard it zapping gently. I found a fire escape nearby, grabbed the ladder and began to climb quickly; trying not to make too much noise as I scaled the building via this ancient device. I got close to the roof and a huge chunk of brick exploded next to me; I nearly jumped out of my skin and lost my balance as I gripped the old ladder shaking from how close the shot had been. Glancing down, I spotted the Bounty Hunter. He was in black, standing there with his feet at shoulder width, glaring up at me; clearly pissed off that he missed his target. I got myself over onto the roof of the building and ran towards the roof door; knowing it’d be locked.
I ran past it as it opened and a young person emerged with gun ready to shoot; this was the Apprentice. A young man usually who was being taught how to be a Bounty Hunter. With Apprentice’s they are not permitted to kill anyone on their first year of service; however they are licensed to carry a firearm in case the person they’re hunting with the Bounty Hunter is armed and they have to use it in self-defence. I wasn’t. But I also wasn’t going to stick around to find out if this Apprentice was on his first year or second year (on their second year, they are encouraged to kill during a hunt). Picking up speed, I ran to the adjacent edge and pushed off to the neighbouring building, I landed in a rough forward roll but had enough momentum to get to my feet and keep going. A shot rang out and as I past the air-conditioning vents, a large hole clanged into the side of it, destroying it in the process; causing my ears to ring and I ducked away from it instinctively. I tried to keep my fear subdued without success; I hated my predicament right now. I turned the corner and found the roof door was ajar, took the opportunity and wrenched it open. The inside gloom was a shock as I almost fell down the stairs to the top floor apartments, opened the door into the hall and kept running. The lighting was so bright, my eyes took a little too long to adjust. I ran past lots of white doors in the rose-coloured corridors. People poked their heads out to see who was running down their quiet hallways at dinnertime; but didn’t see me. Instead, saw a large person following me in black with the biggest gun they’re likely to see in their lives. As I hurried down the stairs, I heard the deadbolts on the doors of the top floor clunking home. Nobody was going to help me; nobody was going to risk their life to save mine… this was obvious.
My training was paying off as I decided to jump the balustrade and freefall to the foyer; there were only two floors to go. As I fell, I pressed two studs on my jacket and jeans and the armouring on my outfit – including the collar – activated. I heard the gun explode behind me, heard and felt the bullets zip and whizz past my head as I prepared myself for the landing; arching my back as a cat would. I saw the chequered marble floor obtain huge divots and crack as the bullets collided with it. A loud crack from above sounded the descent of my pursuer and so as I landed, I didn’t have time to absorb the shock of my body landing. I rolled off to one side, pushed myself up and ran out the front revolving doors and into the darkened street with the concierge stuttering after me.
I ran straight out into the traffic, climbing over bonnets of cars, being bumped by fenders and skittled by motorcyclists who hadn’t seen me. Horns and cursing followed me in my wake of jaywalking. The Bounty Hunter did the same. Instead, he climbed on top of the cars, trucks and the boots of cabs to cross the street. Nobody honked their horns as he pointed his gun at them and they sunk back into their vehicles and closed the door. I was down another alley and had found an empty building by this time. By the time he found me, I was scaling the building to the second floor. It was right about here that I realised this guy was using infrared lenses. However, this wasn’t my night. As I climbed through the window, most of it and the brickwork next to me exploded inward and I fell into the room I had chosen; spraining my ankle. I didn’t have time to tend to it. I heard heavy footsteps on the floors above me.
“Damn apprentice!” I cursed as I got up and ignored the pain to keep going. I arrived at the doorway of the condemned building and still heard footsteps above me getting heavier. I headed towards to the basement; knowing I was about to walk into a trap. As I arrived to the first floor, I slow my steps. My armour was still up on the clothes, but the gloom was dreadful; I couldn’t see anything. I was blinded by a shot in the darkness that clipped my neck; smacking me against the stairwell wall face first. I felt my nose begin to bleed and I sniffed a little (a typical human reaction that I immediately reprimanded myself for) as I leaned into the corner. Another shot from the Bounty Hunter’s gun slammed into my spine and I collapsed in a heap. I could barely move let alone breathe. All I could think about was how thankful I was for the armoured clothing my brother gave me and how he had demonstrated how to arm it. I’d have to remember to thank him if I got of out this alive… that was a very big if.
Footsteps walked over the rubble and up the few steps to where I laid facing the wall. I smelt the heat of the gun as it was pushed into my left side. Through the armour, it was hot and he pushed hard onto my ribcage to see if I was alive; to make me groan. But I didn’t give him the pleasure of giving in to that weakness and have him blow my heart to bits. I was too busy slowing my pulse down enough to seem dead. His large hand rolled me over and saw my open eyes with blood on my face, my mouth. Against the paler of my skin, it was a stark contrast and he cringed at it before he felt for my pulse through the armour.
“She’s dead.” His gravel voice reeked of cigarettes. Then, he spotted something and took up my pentagram, “Hey, what’s this?”
A young voice behind him said: “That’s a pentagram; a sign of protection. It means…”
“I know what it means. It fuckin’ means we killed another Australian.” His deep voice moved away from me, so did his gun, “Oh, shit not again.” He turned away as he became emotional. This had happened to him before and was getting too much to bare. He had been misled many times and the Bounty Hunter knew this was murder. His Apprentice stood near my body looking at me, not knowing what to do. The expression of fear was imprinted on his face as he paled and looked like he was going to throw up.
I took in a deep painful breath full of dirt and dust before blinking and licking my mouth, “I’m not dead.”
The tall, bulk of a man turned back, “What? You tricked me?”
I sat up aching all over; knowing I was going to feel worse than this tomorrow, “No, I applied for an 18+ card and I’m victim of name fraud.”
He sat on the steps with his apprentice behind him as we spoke about what could be done about it. The night wore on and I lived to tell the tale about how we abolished name fraud with the assistance of this Bounty Hunter and my brother’s underground business.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Marcus' Spell

He moved in next door. A lot of boxes were moved into the place with him; then silence for the first day. It was the first night when the loud classical music started up. Problem was it went all night. Casey didn’t get any sleep. She laid there in the semi-darkness on her side with one of her pillows held over her exposed ear. But it didn’t seem to do any good. The music penetrated everywhere somehow. She wondered how she was going to function at work the next day.
Switching on her reading lamp, she pulled on her dressing gown and Tasmanian Devil slippers. On the way to the door, she found her keys and glanced at her watch: “My god, it’s a quarter to four in the morning.” She yawned scratching her short mop of red hair. It took her bashing on the door twice in between the music stopping for rests until the new neighbour answered. When he did, Casey nearly forgot what she was going to say; she couldn’t believe how handsome this guy was. Engaging blue eyes were the first things that caught her attention. Long black curls rested on his shoulders.
“May I help you.” His thick accented voice reached her ears at a whisper that cut the air; yet it seemed full of whispers and echoes.
“Yes.” She croaked, then cleared her throat. “I… could you please turned down your music? Unless you want Mr Jennings on the other side of you taking your head off soon, we’d all like some sleep.”
“I am sorry.” He picked up the remote from next to the door and pressed the pause button. “I love my music. I didn’t think it would hurt anyone to play some.”
’At a quarter to four in the morning, are you nuts’ she thought. Instead, she smiled a little: “It’s great you love music, but there’s a time and a place.”
“I understand. I should have turned it off hours ago.” He nodded blushing slightly. “But I love its highs and lows, even at a quarter to four in the morning.” He opened his door wider, “Would you like to come in for something to drink? To help you sleep?”
“I will do you no harm. I am Marcus.” He held out his hand and as her eyes made contact with his again, she heard light whisperings urging her to him. As though she had no will of her own, Casey’s right hand moved from her side and grasped his.

The next sound she heard was the alarm by her bed. Pushing back the covers, she let in the chill of the morning and looked at the time. Even though Casey had gotten to bed only hours before, she felt as though she had slept the whole night through. Whatever Marcus had given her – if indeed he had done so – had worked wonders.
For the whole day, she was forever busy and on her toes at ‘Borders’ on Elizabeth Street. Casey sailed through the day as though it was the easiest day of her life. She was pleasant and had collected herself more tips than she had in her life of waiting tables. It still made her wonder what Marcus had done.
“You don’t remember anything after going into his apartment?” Narelle asked as she sat out on the loading bay with her having her usual lunchtime smoke, “And why would you do that at that time of the night? He could have been a murderer.”
“Nothing. I just remember hearing whispering in my head. I don’t know why I went in. I should’ve just walked away, but I couldn’t… his eyes are so blue.” She smiled, “And he’s so handsome.”
The brunette turned with interest glittering in her eyes: “Oh, do tell.”
“You’re attached.” Casey laughed.
Narelle flicked her cigarette away as gave her friend a shove: “Well, I can look.”
“Blue eyes, black curly hair and he’s taller than me. He’s well built like your man.” Casey grinned.
“Everyone’s taller than you.”
“Nah!” Casey pushed her friend as she looked at her watch. “Hey, time to go back.”
Helping each other up, they walked back inside. From the entrance of the alley, a figure stood in shadows. It had watched the two have lunch and heard every word spoken. His face was pale as he kept an eye on the time. He couldn’t stay outside in the daylight too long; it wasn’t good for him. Even with the best of precautions, he couldn’t risk his life like his father had. From the time he had met her that morning, Marcus felt her mind was open enough for him to take her. But it was her willpower that he was going to have a problem with; it was strong and he didn’t like making people do what he wished. His father always told him he’d be a king, but when? He was never told. This century was going to be the time; and with Casey. What her last name was, he didn’t care… so long she was by his side to take the city, that’s all he cared about. The day was becoming too hot. The sun had moved too quick, he had to be back home now. Closing his eyes, he vanished into the shadows he had come from.

By the time she arrived back to her apartment, the day had pulled its long fingers down the hills, footpaths and along the river. A chilly wind had picked up and the degrees had dropped considerably. Winter was certainly here; and Casey loved it. It meant covering up. She hated Summer due to her fair skin and inability to put up with the heat of Brisbane.
Her boss had said that he had never seen her so active in her work and given her a raise in pay. Her tips were over twenty dollars which gave her room to buy the book she had had her eye on for the last three months. As she juggled the bag from the shop from one arm to the next, Casey heard his voice.
“Hello, Casey.”
Looking up, she dropped her bags, keys and finally the book thunked to the floor. Sighing, she bent down to pick it all up, but just pulled the keys out from under the mess instead. Looking up, she smiled: “Hi, Marcus.”
“Rough day?” he asked as he walked up and helped her with her bags.
“Busy.” She looked up and saw his eyes, “I’m wondering what you gave me last night that made me sleep so well.”
“A drink.”
“Of what? Because I worked so well today that I got a raise and my tips were up by twenty dollars.” She smiled. “And I’ve never felt so alive.”
“I gave you something from my home town. My father used to brew it. However, he is dead and so now I brew it.” He said, “I didn’t think you’d mind.”
“Thank you.” Casey said, “I don’t remember drinking it, that’s all.”
“Oh,” Looking down, he blushed a little. Marcus fiddled with his keys, “You fell asleep on my lounge and so I carried you back to your bed so you wouldn’t miss your alarm.”
“That explains the lights being off this morning.”
He nodded then stepped forward. Touching her arm, he gave her an apprehensive look: “Would you consider having dinner with me?”
A thousand thoughts of indecision raced through her mind. A part of her said to be cautious, another said to go for it. Casey went with the latter. “Sure.”
“What time?”
“Sounds good.” She nodded.
“You are a beautiful woman.” He touched her face with the back of his fingers, feeling the heat of her blush, “I know that sometimes your emotions get the better of you.”
She let out a nervous giggle then backed away: “I better let you go. I’ll see you tonight.”
“Yes… definitely.” Marcus turned towards the lifts.
She stood there at her door for a moment with the key in her hand ready to unlock it, watching him at the doors. As they opened, she unlocked her door quickly, “I know you watched me.” Came his whisper in her ear; his breath was warm and inviting too. Turning quickly, she looked around but found nobody nearby. Casey glanced towards the lift to see the doors closing slowly, but Marcus was nowhere to be seen. She didn’t know how long she had been standing there. Pushing the door open, she walked inside and turned on the lights.

The few hours passed quickly and she had readied herself in a casual outfit. When Marcus arrived, she felt a little underdressed; but wasn’t surprised to see he was dressed in a suit. His eyes were as engaging as they were the first time they met. He held out his hand and she stepped forward without hesitation this time. As her hand made contact with his, her outfit of dark pants and velvet blouse changed into a long flowing emerald green silk gown. Her hair lengthened and curled; mounting itself on top of her head leaving ringlets around her face and neck.
“Marcus.” She smiled as he leaned forward and kissed her hand lightly.
“I will not harm you.” He kept his eyes on her as he pulled her close and wrapped her free arm around his warm body inside his jacket. “You look astounding.”
“How did you…?” she looked at herself as she felt his breath on her cheek. A warm kiss was planted there. Closing her eyes, Casey felt his lips caress hers as his arms wrapped around her. She could feel the shimmer of the maroon shirt and smell his aftershave.
‘Casey.’ His voice whispered in her mind.
His eyes opened and he looked at her neck. He could take her now. Her scent was so strong; yet it was not time. He kissed her pulsing jugular instead. He could wait. There was time; a lot of it. “It’s time to go.” He smiled as he turned and allowed her out the front door first.

The hour was late when the two of them were walking along the Goodwill Bridge. The lights of Brisbane glittered off the river as they walked along the lit walkway.
“I’ve had a wonderful time, Marcus.” Casey grinned as she skipped along in front of him. They came to the centre of the bridge and took a seat. However, Marcus soon stood and leaned against the railing with his back to the river and stared at her: “Is there something wrong?”
He shook his head. “No. You look beautiful. And I’m feeling lucky to be with such a free spirit as yourself tonight. I wish it would never end.”
Pushing herself off the seat, Casey walked to his side and looked at him. “It doesn’t have to yet, the night is young.”
Caressing her cheek, a smile touched his mouth: “Yes, it is. I’m a new person in this city. Would you like to show me around a little?” he kissed her right hand; his eyes keeping with hers.
“Sure.” She grinned. His eyes were hard to pull away from; it was as though he was hypnotising her. “You have wonderful eyes.”
“Thank you.” He touched her cheek and neck gently then kissed her mouth. Wrapping his arms around her, he closed his eyes and, feeling her relax, he allowed the two of them to levitate a little off the ground. He noted that she didn’t panic when she didn’t have anything under her feet; as though she had done this before – or been in a life where this had happened before. He still had a lot to learn from her. The kiss lasted until the ground was safely under their feet again.
“I felt like we were floating.” She whispered in his ear as she held him tighter.
“So did I.” he replied. Gazing over her shoulder into the night, his eyes glowed a bright red before returning to their usual blue. He leaned back and gazed at her: “You are very special.”
“You think so?”
Nodding, Marcus led her away from the railing and back to the walkway to Southbank. As though she were in spell, Casey followed him; allowing him to lead her away. The night wore on as they walked along and haggled at some of the stalls. He never let her get too far; calling her to stay nearby, and with very little pushing, she did.
“Where to now?” she asked as they walked together through the clamber and throng of people and noise.
“Home. I have something for you.” He smiled.
“Okay.” She nodded as he led her along the front boardwalk of Southbank; where it was quieter. The muted lighting made it romantic place to be and the two didn’t say anything on the way to the Victoria Bridge. As they walked under the large structure, he let go of her hand and wrapped his arm around her shoulders, allowing it to eventually slide to her waist. As he thought she would, Casey laid her head against his shoulder. The wide wooden walkway spiralled up to the footpath and the couple started toward the city.

He opened the door to his apartment as she waited patiently. She knew she should be making tracks home. But really, she didn’t know why she was staying on the first date. Looking at him, she realised that he had a hot butt.
“You like surprises?” he asked glancing her with a grin playing on his face.
“Yes.” She averted her eyes from Marcus’ shapely behind and nodded, “I like them.”
“Good.” The door opened and he allowed her in with a light flourish. Once inside, he closed the door behind his back; locking it quietly, ‘Casey.’
She turned: “You say something?”
“No.” he shook his head.
“I heard you in my mind.”
Walking to her, he dumped his keys in a little tray on the coffee table: “You heard me? My voice?”
“I was hoping you had.” His voice reached her ears the same way it had on the first night they met. The whispers were more urgent this time and she had trouble getting past them; it felt as though he had a stronger hold on her this time.
Leaning down, he hooked his left index finger under her chin and raised it so her eyes met his: “I’m glad you heard me. I have been calling your name all day and night.”
“I thought I could hear you. But then, I’d…” she shook her head. “Marcus, am I going mad?”
“Quite the contrary, my dear.” He muttered, “Casey, you have been carefully chosen.”
“For what?” hesitance gripped her gut as a frown creased her forehead. He placed a kiss of such tenderness that she felt paralysed. Casey couldn’t move as he pulled her closer; she could feel the passion almost oozing from him. It was more of a scent than anything else; but she also felt it was too soon for any of this. The guy may know her well, but she knew squat about him.
“Not a what. It’s a who.” He kissed his away across her right cheek, “Me.” He whispered in her ear the warm air she was hoping not to hear; he was getting to be too much. Lining kisses down her neck, he felt her move her head gently as he nuzzled. Casey was doing exactly what he wanted.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
Moaning, he opened his eyes that had turned a bright red, then gold, colour before he opened his mouth. As he did so, Marcus’ canines grew long; ready for a nightly snack. He felt her suddenly move and pull back. Closing his mouth, he quickly hid his teeth and lowered his eyes for a moment to return them to their natural colour. “I’m trying to romance you.”
“On the first date?” she asked, “I think that’s a little fast.”
Sighing, he stepped back towards the front door and unlocked it as his hand felt for the door handle. “I’m sorry. I moved too fast; should have known better.” Looking at Casey, a small smile pulled at his mouth. Taking her face, he kissed her tenderly, “I’ll let you go home. See you another time?”
“Yes. Another date would be good. We have all the time in the world to get to know each other.”

Weeks passed and Marcus and Casey dated. They went out on long walks for many nights. Some nights, Narelle and her boyfriend, Trent came along as double dates. Soon, the group got along really well.
During lunch one day, Narelle lit her cigarette and pulled on it; she seemed a little distant.
“You okay, Rell?” Casey asked biting into an apple.
She looked at her friend, “How well do you know Marcus?”
She thought for a moment, “He’s lovely.”
“We never see him during the day.”
“Yes, I notice that. Some people are nocturnal, I’ve read into it.” She smiled, “I’ve guessed he’s one of those.”
“No, a lot of nocturnal people will be seen just on dusk. He never sees the sun, yet, he’s got great tan.” She grinned, but it disappeared quickly as she pulled on her cigarette, “I’d like to ask you to get him checked out by Dad.”
Casey rolled her eyes, “Oh, god, no. The last one freaked out.”
“Please. This one bothers me. And Trent reckons he’s a little on the creepy side too.” Narelle touched her friend’s shoulder, “Come on. The last one was also an illegal immigrant. We have to make sure he’s not here to hurt you.”
“All right. I’ll do it.”
“I organised for us to have the afternoon off. So, after this, we go. Don’t say anything or think anything. We’ll just leave.” Her dark-haired friend took out another cigarette and waited for her friend to finish her lunch.

The police station was crowded as they pushed the door open and looked around. Narelle walked to the counter and asked for a particular detective and waited.
“We’re seeing my Dad personally. He does this kind of work.”
“PI stuff?”
“Yeah, kinda.” She grinned, “But we’ll get some idea of who Marcus is.”
The rest of the afternoon was spent at the computers and with the police criminal artists getting the face right. Casey was exhausted by the end of her time there and they had a very good description of her neighbour.
Narelle’s father smiled at the printout: “He doesn’t look all that familiar. But we’ll try to get one of the historians onto him; see where he’s from.”
Casey nodded: “Thank you. I’m trying to keep him at arm’s length, but he’s not being very patient. And he’s made it very clear he wants me in his life.”
Narelle hugged her: “Stay with me tonight. I’ll have Trent stay over for a few nights and he won’t bother you.”

Her eyes opened quickly as his voice called her. Looking around, she saw the unit Narelle had as though the lights were all turned on. Pulling on her jeans and shirt, Casey grabbed the spare key that had been given to her and her change purse. As she quietly opened the door, he was standing in the hall.
“How did you find me?” she asked quietly.
“Easy.” He said as he held her close and kissed her. “I needed to see you and your subconscious told me where you were.”
“I didn’t tell you?”
“No.” he shook his head as he touched her cheek. “And I have a feeling you’re keeping something from me.”
“I wouldn’t do that to you.” She smiled. “Besides, why are you calling me at this time of night?”
Holding her closer, she felt him nuzzle her neck. The moan he heard was the exact one he was hoping she’d make: “Inside the unit.”
“What about Narelle?”
“She will not wake up. Not to you. Besides, Trent is over isn’t he?” he murmured in her ear.
“Yeah.” She sighed.
“Well, let’s get inside.” He kissed her again.
Turning around, she found the key and opened the door as he pushed the hair off her neck and licked the base of her skull. His hands played with her breasts through her shirt; pleasantly loose without a bra. When she didn’t hurry up, he ran his hand up the inside of her left leg, concentrating on the seam to her underwear; and that got her going.
As they staggered inside, he turned her around the kissed her passionately. The door closed with a gentle click and relocked itself as they found the foldout lounge and collapsed on it. Her jeans came off quickly and Casey found an inner strength as she ripped off his shirt and buttons went flying. Her want for him was stronger than he first anticipated. This was something he didn’t see coming as he pull her shirt off and found her breasts that he had been playing with. Her scent was strong and he kissed and suckled them like a baby; and she moan contently.
Feeling between her legs with his right hand, he heard a tear and felt the flimsy material of her underwear between his fingers. It was strong with her sweet aroma as he looked down at her face. Marcus wanted her so badly and he could see she wanted him too; but would she allow him tonight? Was this just something they’d regret the next time they met? Her shaking breaths told him yes. He could feel her passion oozing from her pores as much as his did. This was the right time. Without another thought, he entered her quickly as he held her tight and they both moved in the darkness. Wrapped in the scratchy cotton sheets, they levitated off the bottom sheet and floated a few feet off the mattress. Casey didn’t realise what was occurring as their love-making was taken to the next level. Marcus knew all to well what was coming; as his eyes turned the colour of dragon’s blood; wild and furious as his sex drive. As quickly and fully his eyes changed to red, they turned a brilliant gold moments before he sunk his long hungry teeth into her china white supple neck and drank her life source until the edge of death.

Casey awoke in hospital. She looked around the room quickly wondering how long she had been there and how she came to be there. Narelle and Trent were sitting near the window where the shades were drawn against the sun. She watched as occasionally, her best friend would glance outside and bite her lip. Obviously, she had been crying as her eyes were red and a little swollen.
“Guys.” She whispered. “What happened?”
Narelle quickly stood and started toward her when Trent stopped her: “Oh honey, we heard back from the police about Marcus.” She looked at Trent as she began to cry again.
Trent walked over and stood about three feet from the bed, “He’s got a creepy past. He’s not supposed to be alive.”
Frowning, Casey looked around at Narelle and then back at Trent. “Are you sure?”
“Yes.” He nodded, “I read the report twice. He’s what they call the undead.”
“A vampire.” She whispered to herself before giving Trent an urgent look, “Well, what am I doing in here?”
Trent pursed his lips as the Maori’s skin paled slightly. It wasn’t often something made this guy sick, but he looked like he was going to be: “We found you three days ago on our foldout lounge naked covered in blood.”
Pulling the covers up to her chin, she felt tears prick her eyes: “You’re kidding.”
“No.” he shook his head. “Narelle was sick. You almost died.”
“My god.” She tentatively touched her throat where a bandage had been wrapped around; but not too tightly. “I don’t remember what happened.”
“We’ll find out.” He said.
Casey sat up slowly, “I’d like you guys to go to my place. If he shows up there, tell him it’s to collect the mail and check the answering machine.” She sighed: “I’ve got a dozen or so books on the occult. You know I’m pagan, I read up on all this bullshit. Do some shoestring research. Go to the university when you can. Don’t let him follow you. If you hear him in your head don’t answer; it’ll be hard, but don’t.” she looked from one to the other, “If I become what he is, I’m sorry from what’s left of my soul.”
Narelle touched her hand and smiled a little: “You weren’t to know. You haven’t had it so good with men; and the first one who treats you nice turns out to be…well you know.”
“It might not be such a bad thing.” She said, “But no matter how you look at it, it’s murdering people. I can’t do that. Now, the sun’s going down, he’ll be looking for me. Get out of here. No matter what happens, I love you both and I’ll try to remember who you are.”
Trent turned Narelle away from the bed and as they closed the door, her best friend fell apart. Her sobs were heard as she left. Within hours of them leaving, the plant in the corner of the room died as blood-tainted tears rolled down her cheeks.

The corridors were empty when he approached the door. Casey sat watching the glittering lights from the window. The curtain was pulled open and she had her back to the door. He loved how the back of the gown split open to reveal the pallor of her skin. It was her beauty he was in love with; this next wife. Together they would rule this city. Opening the door, he walked in. But he was feeling something different from the others he had sired. This time, Marcus felt like he didn’t want to be too far from her side for too long. When he lost her scent, panic had welled in his gut and he hoped she hadn’t died or wasn’t killed by anyone. He remembered, his mind raced and he couldn’t think. If his heart could beat, it would too be going fast; then he had to sit down in the corridor of the apartment building and think of where she could be. He didn’t know what this feeling was; however, Casey would know and she would tell him. She’d love to see him, he knew it.
He opened the door and stepped inside, but before he said anything, she whispered with her back still to him: “What do you want, Marcus?”
“I need you.” He let the door close slowly and it locked. Then, he heard it unlock, he relocked it. The click of it unlocking, he realised, was her. “You are to come with me; become what I am.”
She spun, “You have no idea what my friends had to see. They thought I was dead.”
He smiled: “You were. But then, you’re not now.”
An uncertain expression fleeted across her face: “What do you mean?”
Marcus took a hesitant step toward her: “You drank my blood after I took yours and brought you to the brink of death.”
“I bled out.”
“They found me three days ago, naked with blood all over me.” She sidled toward the bed, knocking over the dead plant and ignoring it.
“That should not have happened.”
“Another thing, vampire, how old are you?” she asked, “You seemed to have left out that little detail.”
He fell quiet and looked to the floor “I was hoping you wouldn’t find out.”
“You never thought I’d be a witch?”
Marcus’ eyes widened as he took an unconscious step back toward the door, “Oh, no.”
“Stay… away… from me.”
“You will get a hunger. You will need to feed.”
“Not if I don’t want to.” Suddenly, her gut clenched and Casey doubled over. She grabbed the end of the bed and fell painfully to her knees, “What…?”
He walked to her side and knelt down, letting her lean on him, “Your organs are changing. They must for the bloodlust.”
She looked up at him. He wasn’t smiling: “You lie.”
“No, you must feed. Make it soon. It will be less painful.” He assisted her into bed. “The younger the blood the better; it keeps you appearing younger. Just don’t get caught. Sire anyone you like.” He turned to leave and was at the door when she laid back and locked the door.
“If I want to become human again?”
“You have to kill me.” He said, “But first you must catch me.” Marcus left her in the pain she was going to experience.
He stood outside the door realising that she did not love him; yet, he had another one. But he had to find her friends and stop them from helping her. Instead, he may kill them off, see how that affects Casey; it’ll make her come to him. He walked away from the door and into a lift where he saw his next meal.

A week passed and Casey was released from hospital when the doctors said she was well enough. She went straight to her apartment and found that Narelle and Trent had made enough research efforts to find out where this guy was from. Unfortunately, the problem was getting there.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea to go after him.” She said after quickly reading the folder of information. She had downed a glass of pig’s blood – something both her friend’s couldn’t watch her do – and the folder of work would have taken the week to get together.
“We did all the research you asked for.” Trent sat nearby, but didn’t lean forward as he normally would’ve.
“I know. Thank you.” She smiled, “But he thinks I’m weak and knows I’m a witch. He was shocked to hear me tell him. There was something about that fact that made him run; like he didn’t want me anymore.”
“Like you were damaged goods?” Narelle asked.
“Yeah.” She nodded. Casey stood and gave her friends a mischievous look, “Listen, you two take off somewhere and leave him to me. I’ll take care of his butt and his head.”
Narelle touched her shoulder, “Are you sure? He’s got age on you.”
“I’m a witch I’ve got experience on him.” She grinned smoothly, “But you two look tired. Best get home and to bed. I’ll come with you to make sure he doesn’t get you.”
“You’re still weak.” Trent stood and helped Narelle into her jacket, “Stay here.”
“No, I insist.” She smiled and picked up two wooden stakes from the coffee table. Walking to her friends, she handed them over, “Use these if you ever see him.” She grabbed her jacket and put it on. ‘Or if I can’t stand to starve anymore and attack you instead.’ Walking out the door, Casey picked up her keys and pocketed them, then turned out the lights.
“What about you?” Trent asked.
“You’re mortals, I can fight.” She smiled, “He gave me experience that sharing only gives.”
Narelle shook her head: “I don’t think I needed to know that.”
“Yes you did.” She nodded pressing the button for the lifts. Casey was testing herself out to be with two mortals this night. Was it to be that she’d kill one and be killed by the other? Or end up not getting into the lift? The light going down lit up and the redhead got an uneasy feeling; the same one she used to get when Marcus was around, “We’ll take the stairs.”
“But…” Trent pointed to the doors.
She glowered at him: “The stairs!” And something about her must have convinced him. When she looked at the mirror doors, she realised, the contours of her face had changed; so did her eyes. No wonder he had jumped for the stairs when she told him. She followed them; locking the door on the way down. Nobody tried to open it and maybe that was lucky. They exited at the ground floor and she grabbed Trent’s arm. As he turned and looked, he tried to pull away; something Casey didn’t notice. She was instead, smelling the air knowing Marcus had been there. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean vamp out on you. I think he was in the lift.”
The night air was cold and refreshing. Casey watched her friends huddle together and was happy to know that she didn’t feel the cold all that much; now finding it ironic how she used to. But there was something missing in her life; it wasn’t Marcus. She didn’t want him anymore; well, only dead. The stench of fear suddenly filled the air and she glanced at her friends to see if they were okay. Somebody’s heartbeat pounded in her head and she looked to her right to see a uni student being mugged. Disappearing from her friends’ side for a moment, she grabbed the mugger ripped the bag from him and threw him to the ground. She held it out to the girl, “Go.” She said as she put a foot on the guy’s pelvis.
“It’s okay, you can let him go, don’t beat him.” The girl’s shaky voice sounded to her right.
“If you want to live, get out of here.” Casey said a little louder, “Before he gets his dutch courage up and beats me too.”
Her retreating footsteps were the last things she heard before she grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and threw him into an alley. Quickly looking around, she knew she was alone. The hunger was screaming to be quenched; and she didn’t want to do it. But if it meant to be like him, it meant to kill.
“Oh, Jesus… please don’t hurt me, lady.”
“Shut up!” she turned him around grabbed his neck. This guy reeked of booze. She couldn’t take him if she wanted to; she’d be intoxicated, “Arsehole.” She threw him hard against a brick wall instantly breaking his neck, and not realising it. Casey turned and ran in the direction of where she had left her friends. They had followed her to the entrance of the alley and were looking in.
“You didn’t…” Narelle whispered.
“No.” she shook her head, “I couldn’t. It’s a human being.” Her face changed back to normal and she crumbled, “Oh, god, it’s like an Anne Rice novel. Where’s Louis when I need him.”
Trent laughed: “You remember the good guy.”
Casey half-smiled: “Lestat was an arsehole. Why would I need him?”
They walked to Narelle’s apartment building and she left them at the doors. They invited her in, but she shook her head.
“Come on.” He grinned.
“It’ll render you powerless if I take up the invite. I can’t. And if I turn out like him, I can come in whenever I want. That could be dangerous.” She said, “Read up on your folklore and please meet me next time on holy ground in case I screw up.”
They looked at each other before nodding: “Sure.” Narelle nodded: “Do churches bother… you know?”
“No, holy water does.” She smiled, “But I haven’t killed yet, and don’t wish to. But I was close tonight. I don’t want to turn on you two in case it all goes wrong.” Casey turned and left, “Sleep well and don’t forget to tell the boss I quit.”
“Don’t worry you lost your job anyway.” Narelle said.
She shrugged: “Nights are interesting; more than I thought.” She walked into the darkness and soon they lost sight of her.

A couple of weeks passed and Marcus didn’t bother her. She wondered if he was still in the building; and found he was. He was working on another young girl. So, she pushed herself to wake up during the day and knock on her door. The sunlight nearly blinded her when the door opened.
“Anna?” she asked trying not to show too much pain.
“Yeah. What’s your name? Would you like to come in?” she asked.
“Sure.” She walked in and as the door closed, it locked, “You’re on the western side of the building.”
“Yeah, I’ll just close the blinds.” As suddenly as the blinding light hit her, it was gone. Blue blinds were closed over the kitchen, “I can’t talk for long, I’m going out tonight.”
“With Marcus?”
“How did you know?” she grinned.
“I need to show you something and I think you’re going to be shocked about it.” Casey said, “Back at my place.”
The place was in darkness when they arrived and she flipped on the lights. Anna looked around at the muted colours and smiled: “Nice digs. You’re a witch… cool.”
“Thank you.” She said smoothly, “How many dates have you been on?”
“Oh, he found me wandering the halls one night unable to sleep and he gave me something… but I don’t remember drinking it.” The brunette shook her head.
“Yet, you woke up in your own bed, on time to go to work?” she asked.
“Uni.” She smiled, “Say, you look familiar.”
Casey then remembered who she was talking to, “You walk home alone at night a lot?”
“I’m sorry I scared you the other week. When I get angry, I’ve got a one track mind.” She smiled.
“You had something to show me?”
“Oh, yeah.” Casey sat down and dug out the police report on Marcus. Anna sat quietly beside her looking like she was going to be sick, but not really believing what she was reading.
“How do I know this isn’t all crap.”
“Because he tried out the ‘you’re my one and only queen to the city’ shit on me too. But he got further with me.” She said, “I don’t want to scare you. He turned me into one of him.”
Anna quickly stood and edged toward the door, dropping the police report. “And I invited him into my house… and you as well. That means…”
“We can come and go as we wish.” All this was making her impatient as the fear of this mortal was mounting and yet the door was locked. If she didn’t jump on her before she began screaming, it’d bring the police. That wasn’t good news. When Anna looked at her next, she pushed herself up against the door. Casey’s features must have changed, “I nearly grabbed you the other week for no reason, but now I think I know why.”
“I have his blood in me, so I know his next move.” She whispered. Putting her hand out, she locked eyes with the woman, “Come here.” Without another thought, Anna did. Her scent overwhelmed her. There was nothing wrong with this young, beautiful specimen of a mortal. She watched as she stood there almost in a swoon; eyes half-closed, a smile playing on her mouth, “I have to be like him to kill him. Your sacrifice will assist mankind; that is not bullshit.” She kissed her tenderly on the lips and got the response she wanted from her. No matter whom, humans will play into a vampire’s will. She turned her Anna’s head to one side, felt the pulsing of her life source in the thick jugular, licked it once then pierced it. Blood gushed into her mouth, warm, delicious and nourishing. She had wanted this so badly and it tasted so much better than pig’s blood. The body soon went limp and the heartbeat slowed to almost nothing. Anna was soon dead. As soon as possible, Casey placed the body back in Anna’s apartment. It would be days before somebody would notice her missing; and unfortunately, she would’ve moved on to kill Marcus by that time. It would give him an excuse to avenge Anna’s death. But this time, Casey would be ready; yes, this time, she’d have her friends to back her up.

Narelle and Trent sat in St Stephen’s on Elizabeth Street. As with most Catholic Churches, this one kept its doors unlock for anyone to come and pray at all hours. They were sitting near the front of the church wondering where Casey was; not realising she had already been there for an hour watching them.
From the shadows, Casey watched her friends. She felt the demon inside her screaming at her to attack; but she had her ethics and had to control it. It was almost like having a mental problem. She made her way from the back of the church quietly to the row behind them and sat down. They didn’t know she had arrived until the pew creaked.
Narelle turned around quickly and looked at her; her eyes widening as she took in her appearance: “My god, you’ve fed.”
“On his new girlfriend.” She grinned.
Trent and Narelle exchanged doubtful expressions before he said anything: “Okay, you asked us here. What do you need?”
Casey looked around as a priest walked past slowly. As he made eye contact with her, he picked up his pace until he disappeared into the knave. Other people around them were becoming uncomfortable with her presence, “I’ll make this quick because I feel like I’m not welcome.” She leaned against the back of their pew and they moved a little, “I’m not going hurt you two… ever. I can control that. I need to get him out of the way; then I’ll be free and mortal again.”
“How are we supposed to do that? He’s got endless strength.”
“You’re so negative, Narelle. If I can piss him off, we can destroy him.” Casey locked eyes with her. Before she was completely under her spell, she blinked slowly and looked away as she sat back, “But I need your help. You’re day dwellers; I’m not. You have the resources to do this; I don’t.”
Trent nodded: “I understand this now. The university has professors who lecture in this stuff. They know how to fix this.”
A smile pulled up the corners of Casey’s mouth: “Give the man a medal. He’s treading the righteous path.” She looked at him happily, “You guys sus this out and make the bones of a plan and meet me somewhere else safe tomorrow or the day after.”
“Okay.” Narelle nodded, “You’ve still got your phone going?”
“Yep, leave a message on my landline. The tone is turned down that’s all.” Casey didn’t wait for them to confirm anything. She had glanced behind them and noticed a priest – a different one from before; a more important one – approaching. Before he could say anything, she stood up, went to the end of the pew and walked out the way she came in.
“Do you know that lady?” the priest asked Narelle and Trent.
Trent nodded: “Yes.”
“May I see you in the knave? I have something important to inform you about her.” He said. Narelle stood as Trent did and they followed the priest to the small rooms around the back. The older man opened the door and allowed them into the meagre quarters where there were bookcases, a large desk and tall stain-glass windows, “Please, take a seat.” He stood by the desk and waited for them to sit down in the overstuffed chairs in front of it. He seemed to be friendly, but didn’t want to come across like he was a know-it-all. He leaned on the large desk, “Other priests come here to hold meetings with me. There was a young one who came to drop off a computer disk of a sermon for me to proofread. He walked past you three and he found that when he made eye contact, your friend gave him the creeps. So, he hid behind one of the columns and pulled out a mirror. Why he carries this I’m not sure. But he claims that in the mirror, your friend cast no reflection; however you both did. So, what is going on? I’d like to know.”
Trent knew they wouldn’t be permitted out of the room without explaining to the priest what had happened, “I can’t use the trick of the light. That’s not true. But we do need some help with our friend.”
“From what my priest friend saw, she is no friend of yours.”
“She’s a nightcrawler… I know. But it only happened recently. We are trying to get the guy who did it.” Narelle said, “We just don’t know where to start.”
At this the priest’s face lit up, “Why not with me? Vampires have been around for so long, I may be able to tell you which clan he’s from; and so make it easier for you kill him.”
Trent and Narelle couldn’t believe their luck as they exchanged nervous glances; wondering if they should trust this guy, “How do we know you’re not working for him?” Trent asked.
“I’m a priest.”
“That makes no difference.” He replied.
The man walked to a bookcase and climbed one of the ladders, grabbed a book from a shelf and climbed back down. He opened it on his desk and pointed out a picture: “Is that Marcus?”
Narelle looked at the picture and nodded: “Yes. And how did you know his name?”
“I am not a priest.” He sighed, “I’m here in disguise as a watcher.” When the two didn’t show any sign of understanding, the man continued, “I watch over vampire slayers as they train. However, I’m without a slayer; thus, I go about what I was trained to be: a priest. So, when I’m needed in a place at a particular time, I show up.” He smiled: “And I knew through tracking this one that he was here in Brisbane. However, until I saw your friend, I didn’t know who he had chosen to be his queen.”
Narelle bit her lower lip gently before saying anything: “So, he’s very important?”
“In the immortal world, yes; in ours no.” he closed the book as he looked at the two again, “You are working alongside a very powerful witch though and that makes her extremely unstable as a vampire.”
“Her anger could get in the way of her ethics.” Trent nodded, “We need to get to him and soon.”
“Well, my name is Ruben.” He smiled, “I will help you in any way possible from here at St. Stephen’s. All of my source books are here and are very reliable.”
“We were going to go to the university.”
Ruben appeared a little troubled: “Well, there’s a society of vampires on campus. They’d let Marcus know what you’re doing. It’s best not to go there.”

She found her way to the university. The place was in darkness as she walked around. Students taking night classes were either finishing them or beginning them. The Library had just closed it doors and Casey could hear the Librarian locking up. The woman’s nervousness was like a strong perfume as she looked around the dimly lit doorway, locked the doors, checked them, then hurriedly walked down a well-lit pathway. Casey observed how tense the atmosphere was here. It wasn’t as relaxed as it normally would be at a university. And so, keeping to the shadows she found her way to a group she had heard the priest talk about. They stood near the building where Humbug was held. She noted a group of young vampires were sharing a human as a treat. As she approached, they all stopped and looked at her.
“It’s her.” One said.
“Marcus must know of this.” Another whispered.
“You need not whisper.” She said, “I’d like to have a bite.”
“You dumped him.”
“He misinformed me about what I was getting into.” She said, “He told me after he sired me what I was.”
The group looked at each other and the first that spoke looked at her: “You’re welcome here then.”
The human was passed along to her and she looked down at the young uni student who looked stoned and made a fresh bite into her arm and drank just a little. The young twenty-something moaned with pleasure as Casey sat back stroking the student’s hair. “Don’t deplete her too much. Remember they have to be living to be bitten.” She rose and walked away leaving the group to their antics. Casey walked passed Humbug and glanced into the bright room to the computer geeks fussing over their hard drives and internet isp’s. She found her way in the darkness of the university shadows; away from the lit pathways. She had yet to feed this night and had decided to find a criminal to do it; somebody who deserved to disappear and go to hell.

Narelle and Trent studied at the knave for a few days before calling Casey at her apartment. She arrived just after sunset from around the side of the large sandstone building and walked down the side corridors the priests took. She walked past the large bath of holy water and it bubbled slightly; she could hear everyone’s prayers and confessions. It was deafening to be here. She came to the closed door and knocked on it, her knuckles smoking slightly.
The priest she saw last time, who didn’t like her, opened it and invited her in. He seemed uneasy; knowing she was dangerous. Another priest was there; the strange nervous young one. She thought to scare him and showed her teeth; at which he jumped and dropped the book he was reading.
“Please don’t scare my workers.” The first priest said.
“Why not? It’s funny.” She walked over to the desk, but felt a barrier against her; an invisible one, “A pentagram on the floor?”
Ruben smiled: “You’re good.”
“Thank you, Ruben.” Casey said, “Can I sit anywhere here? Or are the chairs going to burn me?”
“Please take a seat.” The older priest smiled, “You are most welcome. A drink?”
“Don’t tease me.” She glared at him.
Ruben opened a small bar fridge and pulled out a bag of blood; the kind you’d find at the blood bank, “I wasn’t.”
Trent looked up at Ruben hesitantly: “You sure that’s a good idea?”
“It’s just on sunset and I’m sure Casey here hasn’t fed.” He walked over and gave her the bag. The vampire popped open the tube with her nail and sniffed it: “You didn’t spike it; when you could’ve.”
“You more use to us alive than dead.”
Narelle kept her back to Casey as she tipped her head back and guzzled the blood from the bag. Once it was empty, the vampire wiped her mouth on her sleeve and sighed: “Well, that nice; a bit cold, but nice.”
“That was O negative.” He smiled.
“Rare. Now I know what the fuss is about.”
Ruben sat near her, “Fuss?”
Casey’s attitude changed, “You did spike it. Truth serum.” She was caught between killing the man and telling him what she had done the night before, “I went to the university and found a group of vampires biting a human.”
“Biting?” Narelle half-turned.
She glanced at her, before fiddling with the bag, “It’s an addictive thing humans do. It’s where they let a vampire bite them but not kill them; where the endorphins of the pain make it a turn on, sort of like a high.”
Trent had paled a little: “How sickening.”
“They don’t become full vampires, but they’re like a snack and they are weak all the time.” Casey said, “Problem was I was recognised and the group nearly didn’t let me in.”
“Why not?” Ruben asked.
She looked at him: “Because Marcus had been there and told them I killed his second girlfriend, Anna.”
“You set them straight though.” Trent said.
“Yes. And the girl was very tasty for a small bite. I would have liked a bit more.” She sighed.
Narelle quickly stood and walked out of the room, “I can’t listen to this anymore. I’m sorry, Casey.”
The redhead turned: “It’s okay, Narelle, you’ve done well. For a mortal, you’ve lasted a long time before throwing up.” The door slammed and she turned back, “I didn’t mean to be so crass.”
Trent stood and walked to Casey, “I’ll take the bag if you want.”
She handed it to him. His hand touched hers and she could feel his blood pulsing nervously through his system. For a moment, she could feel his mood of wanting to know what it was like to be immortal. For that moment, she wanted to – oops, accidentally – scratch him and lick at his wound. Her thumbnail moved a little to do just that and he yanked the bag out of her hand. Quickly, she took in a deep breath and pulled her hand away, “Thank you.”
“You okay?”
“Just get back inside the circle.” Her voice shook as she kept her eyes to his knees. As he walked to the bin by the desk, she watched him carefully. Yes, he would be a very tasty meal indeed; wild like his nervousness.
Ruben nodded: “We better tell her what we found out too.”
“With all of you here walking around like fresh chunks of meat, I gotta know what’s going on.” She said, “I’m tempted to grab something fresher than a bag of blood.”
Trent nodded, “Right.”
Narelle soon came back into the room and the group talked to Casey and she kept her eyes cast to the floor. It was less tempting than looking at mortals when they spoke; especially when all of them except one were nervously fiddling with what remained of their fingernails. The older priest remained seated by her and didn’t look like he was going to move anytime soon; this made her nervous, wondering what he was doing not feeling like it was going to be his last night by sitting next to her.
When a lull in the conversation occurred, she looked up and sighed, “Well, everything you’ve all read out is about all we know now.”
“That’s right.” Trent said, “We’re back at square one.” He sat back against the seat and groaned, “I’m wondering if we’re going in circles.”
The first priest shook his head, “I have a feeling we are.”
Casey sensed that he was lying and looked at him: “You’re lying.”
Narelle turned and looked at the priest, “She’s good at this. Even before she became immortal, she could pick a liar out of a crowd of people. Now, she can smell one.”
Casey stood up and motioned to her friends to follow, “Believe me, I won’t hurt you. He gave me his blood, and I know he’s lying.”
Trent grabbed Narelle’s hand and the three began walking out of the knave. As Casey approached the door, she heard footsteps hurrying on the other side and didn’t dare touch it, “They blessed the door. I can’t touch it.”
“What do you mean?” Narelle asked.
“My knuckles got burnt when I knocked on it earlier. I just didn’t tell you.” She said, “But we can’t go out this way. The priests are expecting company.” She turned and looked at him: “You invited Marcus didn’t you?”
“He’s your King, isn’t it?” the older priest asked.
The penny dropped then with Casey, “No wonder he said you were dead. To him, you were dead because you became a priest and a watcher to vampire slayers like your protégé over there who looks and acts like a nervous priest, but isn’t.”
Ruben glanced at the young man, “He’s not a slayer. He really is a priest. Slayers are only females.”
Narelle frowned, “Then, who is the slayer?”
Trent looked at her, “You went and threw up before… it can’t be you.”
Casey suddenly realised how controlled she’s been throughout this whole ordeal. Yes, she’s fed and gathered information. She’s been able to keep out of Marcus’ way. But it wasn’t until Ruben came on the scene that things became way too easy to accomplish, “You’re no priest or watcher. Instead, you’ve been too cool to be a priest and nowhere near square enough to be a watcher.” She locked eyes with Ruben as she walked to him, “Yet, you haven’t gone anywhere near your desk all night. Is there a reason for that?”
He glanced at the desk then back at her, “I didn’t want to overcrowd-“
“Oh cut the bullshit!” she snapped knowing she had changed by the way the other priest bolted through a hidden doorway yet Ruben didn’t seem all that surprised by her sudden change, “You had somebody put that there and then realised, oh crap, you can’t sit at your desk!”
Trent whispered to Narelle, “Why didn’t we notice that?”
“I’m impressed.” Ruben smiled, “My son chose such an observant woman.” He reached out to touch her, but she flinched, “However,” he shook his head, “I’m sorry to say, you have a bad temper and you’re very unstable as a vampire.”
“And you’re not as a priest?”
“God gave me my soul back.”
“But you’re still immortal.” She muttered, “Not a fair swap.”
“That hurt.” Ruben said.
“Guys, get outa here.” She called.
“Way ahead of ya!” Trent wrenched open the door only to be greeted by Marcus, “But not tonight. I think we’ll stay.”
The dark-haired man glared at the two and smiled: “No, really, leave. Casey wished it.”
Trent and Narelle started toward the door and stopped realising he had ordered them. Narelle turned and looked at him: “Was that an order or were you agreeing with her?”
He looked at her: “Agreeing with her.”
Casey turned and looked at her friends, shaking her head: “He lies. It was an order. He doesn’t want you around. But I do. The more people I have on my side, the better.”
Marcus reached out and grabbed Narelle, pulled her close, kissing her. Trent couldn’t do anything as he watched with dread that a Prince of the Underworld had his girlfriend. He attempted to follow and found his heels drag along the floor and he was soon pinned against the nearest bookcase, forced to watch as Marcus made out with his girlfriend.
Casey stood by looking on, knowing it was all a show, “Let her go. She’s not worth it.”
Marcus’ golden eyes rose and met hers as he breathed on the Maori’s neck; ready to feed on her, “Make me.”
She walked to his side and took her friend’s arm, “Let me. She’s my friend. Her boyfriend wouldn’t want just anyone doing it.” He didn’t let Narelle go immediately. Casey touched his hair and cheek, “Come on, honey, why did we fight in the first place? I wasn’t into the immortal thing to start with. I’ve killed and fed and now I’m like you… a bloodsucker.”
“Okay.” He strong accent turned her on as they kissed each other and she felt her friend relax into her arms, “I’d like you to sire them both, together tonight.”
“I’ll have to discuss that with them.” She said and turned Narelle’s woozy body around and made her walk. His spell had strengthened and she kissed her temple quickly, “Narelle, wake up.”
“No, please!” she snapped, “Did he?”
Casey shook her head, “No. I saved you for now. Trent was put off by him.” As they approached the bookcase, she handed Narelle to Trent and looked at them both, “Come here.” She hugged them together; her head between theirs, resting on their shoulders. Placing her hands on the back of their heads, she felt tears prick her eyes, “Leave now while I fight, else you will be sired by me.”
Trent and Narelle made no eye contact as Casey whispered softly and gently. They realised it may be the last time they see her alive. As they pulled away and looked at her, they found blood trails running from her eyes.
“You’re being spared. Count yourself lucky.” She said looking to her hands. She took a deep breath heard the door unlock and open, “Now leave.” They didn’t have to be told twice; they ran out slamming the door behind them.
“You didn’t sire them!” Marcus shouted, “You let them escape!”
She turned, “The one thing you did wrong was sire a witch, Marcus. Your father was right about me.” She smiled: “I’ve got a bad temper and I’m extremely unstable as a witch and a vampire.” She looked at Ruben, “And inviting me here wasn’t such a bright idea. Yeah, a church, but you’re powerless.”
“The bible, the holy water…” the priest said.
“I told you it was all bullshit.” Marcus muttered.
“Marcus, if he is your father, why don’t you kill him?” she walked to him, “He invited you here. We’re powerful, he’s not.”
The dark-haired man smiled as he looked at Ruben, “My love, you are inspirational.” He turned and, as Casey watched, shoved Ruben into the pentagram, “Break it for me?”
“Of course.” She promptly broke the pentagram circle and the vampire walked straight up the priest who looked like he was about to accept his death from Marcus, but he landed on a tax spike sitting on the desk and turned to dust.
“Well, that was a letdown; I wanted him to burst into flames or something.” Marcus turned and looked at Casey, “I’m free and you are too.” He smiled and his features changed. Then, he realised that he had been alive for over two hundred years and – as the dust of his father settled around the desk – Marcus lost his footing and stumbled to the settee. He became short of breath as Casey sat by him, “You have been the most lovely person; even though you rejected me when I sired you.”
“I detest sending you to hell.” She said, “But …”
“I know. I killed so many people.” He shook his head, “Goodbye my love.” He closed his eyes and his clothes deflated to nothing against the settee.

Casey awoke in hospital; again. She moaned as she rolled onto her side. A nurse who had been sitting by her pressed the button for assistance, rose and walked out of the room.
A dark-haired doctor came in and checked her blood pressure and chart before speaking with her: “How do you feel today, Casey?”
“What am I doing here?” her voice was croaky.
“You came out of your coma last week.” He said, “You gave us a scare.” He glanced toward the door, “Your friends and family are here. But Narelle and Trent want to see you first.”
The two walked in looking at her nervously. As the door closed, Trent sat on the bed, “Okay, there are vampires in Brisbane. You were bit and then we were suckered in by one at St Stephen’s Church on Elizabeth Street.”
Narelle touched her shoulder: “Whatever you do, don’t tell them that. They’ll keep you here longer.”
“What coma was I in?”
Trent sighed, “We were walking through the church and smelt something weird as we passed the holy water. It was bubbling. People were being evacuated. There was a gas leak and you were the only one in the knave they found; even though we told them there were three people.”
“What about his clothes?”
“They said there were none.” Narelle whispered, “They reckon what you went through was a huge hallucination.”
“Yeah, right.” She frowned.
“You want to get of here? Tell them that vampires don’t exist.” Trent said, “For our sakes.”
Narelle glanced at the plant in the corner of the private room and it died, “We were sired at the university one night by the very group you were researching. Please, tell them nothing.”
“Of course.” She said, “I’m not even sure Marcus exists anyway.”
“Keep saying that too.” Trent said, “They’ve been looking for him.” With that, the two climbed off the bed and walked out.
Casey was visited by family, psychologists and the police. They all asked the same questions thousands of different ways. She gave the same answers thousands of different ways; and thus got herself signed out of the hospital.

About a week after she arrived home, she met up with Narelle and Trent. They had invited her to their loft not far from her apartment. As she opened their fridge, she found that sure enough, they were vampires. Fortunately, they weren’t complete wrecks like she had been. But she could keep their secret.
“I don’t think we can trust you.” Trent said, “Not the way you think we can.”
“You’re mortal and trusting a mortal isn’t easy.” Narelle said.
“I’ve been sired before.” She smiled, “I vowed never to sire you two and didn’t. In the church I nearly did. Why don’t you do it now; seeing I know what I’m in for?”
Narelle put down her wine and turned to her and put her hand out. The same voices Casey heard from Marcus came from Narelle. His spell lived on in other vampires he had sired. Her two friends had been sired by people he had sired; this was something she was secretly proud of: “Come here.” Without hesitation, Casey went to her feeling the familiar welcome of being sired, the coming edge of death then being wrenched back.

It was like coming home.